First photo of Scarlett Johansson in 'Ghost in the Shell' draws ire

The live-action adaptation opens in theaters in March 2017.

By Annie Martin
Scarlett Johansson as Motoko Kusanagi in "Ghost in the Shell." Photo by Paramount Pictures
1 of 5 | Scarlett Johansson as Motoko Kusanagi in "Ghost in the Shell." Photo by Paramount Pictures

LOS ANGELES, April 14 (UPI) -- Ghost in the Shell gave fans a first glimpse of Scarlett Johansson starring in a controversial role.

Paramount Pictures on Thursday shared a photo of the 31-year-old actress in character in a press release for the upcoming film. The picture sees Johansson sport a short, dark wig as Major Motoko Kusanagi, "a one-of-a-kind human-cyborg hybrid" who is Asian in the original manga and in an animated film adaptation.


"We are so pleased to be in Wellington to shoot Ghost in the Shell," the movie's producers said. "The people of New Zealand have been terrific partners in helping us bring this story and its beloved characters to audiences around the world."

Ghost in the Shell is based on the Japanese manga by Masamune Shirow, which debuted in 1989. The series previously inspired a television show and several animated films in Japan, including the critically-acclaimed 1995 film adaptation.

Fans reacted with both enthusiasm and disappointment to Johansson's debut. Popular blogger Angry Asian Man was among those to criticize the film for casting Johansson over an Asian actress among a cast largely made of Asian actors.


There are also numerous reports that producers experimented with giving Johansson a more Asian appearance in digital post-production, a claim the studio denies. Paramount Pictures did confirm that digital effects to make a "background actor" look more Asian were done as a test, but the idea was "ultimately discarded."

Fellow actress Ming-Na Wen didn't mince words about the choice to cast Johansson, who is of Danish and Polish heritage.

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